INTRODUCING THE SPINE MODEL - JASON SUTTIE
Jason Suttie Head of Disruption at The Foundery division of Rand Merchant Bank
Jason, Suttie, RMB, Agile, DevOps, Rand, Merchant, Bank, Technology, IT, Disruption, Foundery,
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INTRODUCING THE SPINE MODEL

I’ve seen many organisations who have embarked on Agile journeys. The large enterprises are harder to shift than smaller companies and start-ups. A fundamental truth about enterprises is that they suffer from “silo sickness”, a disabling condition that impedes the flow of value. Smaller companies are easier as they have fewer hand-off points as well as organizational silos. With start-ups one is always conscious to set up the organization right by applying the wisdom that only years of practical learning can provide.

Enter “The Foundery”, RMB’s Technology Disruption Unit – this is where we want to showcase how to do it right. Being an Agile cheerleader, I wanted to help to shape the unit so that the entire unit is Agile – not only the technology component. My partners have already done some amazing work by creating an empowering and progressive culture. My contribution is to introduce the Spine Model. The Spine Model is a philosophy of thought that helps to set the framework that supports and enables teams wanting to improve their way of work.

A key pre-supposition of the Spine Model is as follows: whilst hierarchy is sometimes useful it should only guide on what outcomes are needed and NOT on how these outcomes are to be achieved. The how is the mandate of the team. Autonomy is essential a world of knowledge workers.

The Spine Model starts with the what. What is the need that each team is addressing? We then flow to the values of the team, what does the team value? When talking at the value level, one must understand the organisational values, team values and values of the individual. Self-awareness of these value drivers can be transformative. I would recommend reading the works of David Lapin on this subject.

Moving to principles. The principles that the teams establish become the means by which decisions are made. The absence of principles that the team agrees on puts the team into a place of chaos as decision making often defaults to decision by hierarchy.

Practices are often the place that people start their Agile journeys. “We’re going to do scrum and it’s going to solve all of our issues”. A common misconception and mistake, the practice is far less important than the ultimate need that it supports. Finally, we have tools that support the practices. I’m a great believer in tools, never do something more than once manually if it can be sensibly automated.

Simple right? Most things look good on paper, when the rubber hits the road then it becomes interesting. Look out for my next article on how you walk the spine.

Simple right? Most things look good on paper, when the rubber hits the road then it becomes interesting. Look out for my next article on how you walk the spine.

– JasonSuttie